Nullius in verba (Latin for "on the word of no one" or "Take nobody's word for it") is the motto of the Royal Society. John Evelyn and other Fellows of the Royal Society chose the motto soon after the founding of the Society.[1]

Meaning and etymology

The Royal Society website explains the motto thus:

It is an expression of the determination of Fellows to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts determined by experiment.[2]

The phrase came from Horace's Epistle to his benefactor Maecenas,[3][4] where he claims not to be devoted to any particular sect but is rather an eclectic by nature.[5]

These are the words, forming two hexameters in the original context:

Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri, – quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes."
("(being) not obliged to swear allegiance to a master, wherever the storm drags me to, I turn in as a guest.")[6]

The Asteroid belt minor planet known as 11059 Nulliusinverba is named after the expression.[7] The phrase is also widely used and cited elsewhere.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

See also


  1. ^ Hunter, Michael Cyril William (1995). Establishing the New Science: The Experience of the Early Royal Society. Boydell Press. p. 17. ISBN 0851155065. 
  2. ^ Anon (2013). "Royal Society history". royalsociety.org. London: Royal Society. Archived from the original on 2013-03-25. 
  3. ^ Shuckburgh, E.S. (1888). The Epistles of Horace, Book I. Cambridge. p. 1.  (Latin)
  4. ^ Francis, Philip (1846). Horace Vol. II. Harper & Brothers. p. 9.  (English translation)
  5. ^ Horace (1753). The Works of Horace, Vol. II. Davidson. p. 206.  (see footnote)
  6. ^ Horace: Epistles, Book I, epistle I, lines 14 and 15
  7. ^ (11059) Nulliusinverba, International Astronomical Union, Minor Planet Center
  8. ^ Butterworth, Jon (2017). "Take nobody's word for it – evidence and authority in a world of propaganda". theguardian.com. London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2017-03-29. 
  9. ^ Anon (2016). "Editorial: Nullius in verba". Nature Physics. 12 (9): 817–817. doi:10.1038/nphys3890. ISSN 1745-2473. 
  10. ^ Goldacre, Ben (2010). "Nullius in verba. In verba? Nullius!". badscience.net. Archived from the original on 2016-03-11. 
  11. ^ Amonette, William E.; English, Kirk L.; Ottenbacher, Kenneth J. (2010). "Nullius in Verba". Sports Medicine. 40 (6): 449–457. doi:10.2165/11531970-000000000-00000. ISSN 0112-1642. PMC 3081786Freely accessible. PMID 20524711. 
  12. ^ Stirling, Andy (2011). "Intolerance: retain healthy scepticism". Nature. 471 (7338): 305–305. doi:10.1038/471305a. ISSN 0028-0836. 
  13. ^ Livermore, Martn (2013). "Nullius in verba: take nobody's word for it. The Royal Society should encourage more debate, says The Scientific Alliance". cambridgenetwork.co.uk. Cambridge: Cambridge Network. Archived from the original on 2016-06-06.